Galapagos Islands are home to some of the rarest flora and fauna
in the world. But the wildlife that inspired naturalist Charles
Darwin's theory of evolution are under threat. The Islands have a
wide array of endemic fauna, invertebrates, birds, reptiles and a
few mammals, which are native to the islands rather than
introduced. The Galapagos Tortoise is the most well known of all
the endemic creatures. These giant tortoises, all of which are
endangered due to hunting and introduced species, include 11
subspecies adapted to the terrain of their island home.
The cool waters of the Humboldt Current,
originating in the Antarctic and flowing northward along South
America, veers away from the coast just south of the equator and
sweeps directly into the Galapagos. Especially during the garua
season from June to December, the Humboldt brings rich food source
for sea-going mammals such as sea lions and whales. The southerly
origins of the Humboldt also explains the presence of the
archetypal Antarctic genus, penguins, in the equatorial Galapagos.
Giant Tortoise: (Geochelone elephantopus).
There are 14 described subspecies of the Galapagos tortoise of
which 11 still exist, some with only small populations. There are
"dome-shelled" and "saddle-backed" Galapagos tortoises. Where
ground vegetation is the main source of food the animals are
dome-shelled. Those that feed on higher growing cactus have a
curved shell front to allow their longer neck to reach the pads.
Iguana: Marine iguanas are found all through the Galapagos
Islands. Although the iguanas on each island look a little
different and are different in size, they are all the same kind of
iguana. The iguanas develop their colours as they get older - the
young are black, while adults can be combinations of black, green,
red or grey, depending on the island on which they live. The
iguanas on the island of Espanola are the most colourful, with
blotches of red and green. The red colour comes from a kind of
seaweed that blooms in the summer.
Land Iguana: There are two species of
land iguana found in the Galapagos Islands Conolophus
subcristatus is native to six islands, and Conolophus pallidus is
found only on the island of Santa Fe. They are large (over 1 metre
long), yellowish animals, with males weighing up to 13 kilograms.
Galapagos iguanas are thought to have had a common ancestor which
floated out to the islands from the South American mainland on
rafts of vegetation. The adult males are very similar in weight
and size to a bull. Although they can be very clumsy on land, they
can move amazingly good in water and manage to handle all their
heavy body of 560 pounds (250 kilograms).
Lava Lizards: There are seven
endemic species of lava lizards on the islands, with colors that
range from grey, black, red and orange. The females are usually
brown with a brilliant slash of scarlet on the face and throat.
They live on all the islands and are commonly seen doing their
territorial “push-ups” which vary from island to island. The
female lava lizard is easy to tell from the male because of their
red throat. The lava lizard are found anywhere around the
principal islands, but their survival in Santa Maria Island is
threaten by the rats and wild cats.